Human Resource Question- Butt Smacking at work?

My male work partner recently told me that our male manager has smacked him on the butt a few times in the past and once recently. My male counterpart said it made him uncomfortable and wonders if he should report it to HR. To clarify both our manager and my work partner are straight and married. My work partner is not an uptight guy and is actually really laid back. Our manager has only been our manager for a short while, therefore, it is not like they are friends goofing around. One of the butt smacks took place in a “go get them” way, but the others were random for no reason at all. I know that men smack each others butt in sports and sometimes in social situations, but is it appropriate at work? Is it a HR issue? I know IF my manager (a male) smacked my (female) butt that I would call HR because of sexual harassment. That is clearly sexual harassment, but “what is it” when a male smacks another males butt in a work place? What if any term should he use if he contacts HR? Thank you for any feedback anyone can offer. I am at a loss and do not know what to tell my partner to do. I would hate to tell him to go to HR if I am over reacting.:confused:

I think he should tell the manager first before going to HR. Most companies take sexual harassment VERY seriously and I’d hate for this guy to get into serious trouble or have to go through a 30 hour training class if it really is something he’s doing innocently. If he doesn’t stop or if he does it to somebody else, THEN go to HR.

Unless your friend is a football player he should do something.

This was a lot funnier as an episode of Friends. Think Chandler was the smackee, complained about it, and then felt left out when everyone else was getting smacked.

Yep, you got it, it was Chandler. Of course, that boss also bragged about how “They keep throwing these sexual harassment cases at me and I keep [makes baseball-bat-swinging gesture] knocking them out of the park!” so he wasn’t a good role model anyway. :slight_smile:


At both large technology companies I’ve worked at, we took training the taught us, amongst other things, that unwanted contact of that sort can be construed as sexual harassment, regardless of the sexes involved.

What your co-worker does about it is another issue. If he’s comfortable talking to the supervisor about it, fine…if not, IMHO, it’s appropriate to go to HR.


That’s officially a weird thing to do in the office. The old atta-boy upper arm punch, the fake out rabbit punches to the gut, the classic slap on the back - those are all acceptable congratulatory touch in the office.

Butt, boob, face and neck contact constitute instant weirdness. Less weird but still questionable are knees and hands aside from shakes and high fives.

If I were you, and had witnessed the smacking, I’d gently call the boss out on it. “hey, I don’t want to rock the boat but it’s a little odd that you spank your subordinates.”

If you didn’t witness it, then the smackee is going to have to spine up and have a chat with the smacker.

The first step is to ask the manager politely not to smack him on the butt, since it makes him uncomfortable. If that doesn’t work, or he doesn’t feel comfortable doing that, the next step would be to go to HR through whatever channel is appropriate at your company. Any unwanted physical contact can be harassment, regardless of the genders involved. All he needs to tell HR is that his manager has smacked him on the butt, and that it makes him uncomfortable.

I once had to speak to a manager about referring to me inappropriately. To his credit, after a brief attempt at the “that’s just what I do, I don’t mean anything by it” defense, he agreed to stop and never did it again. It may be that the manager is used to this kind of behavior, and doesn’t know that it bothers your co-worker. A simple request might be all he needs to stop.

In training sessions, I was taught that this had to be:

  1. unwanted
  2. repeated
  3. sexual in nature.

So I would question how it meets number 1) – how can the manager know it’s unwanted, if your work partner has never told him? And it probably won’t meet number 2) either – how can the manager know not to repeat this, if your work partner has never objected?

When I was working with HR, our first question on hearing a story like this would be “If this bothers you, why haven’t you told your manager so?”

Second question: “Why’d you wear pants like that if you weren’t wanting someone to notice?”

If it happens again your friend could just grab the boss and liplock him, saying “I’ve had enough foreplay daddy, take me to a motel!” Of course the bad part might be explaining later to his wife why he has a key from Harry’s Happy Ending Inn in his pocket.

I thought it was wrong for sure, but just wanted to make sure I was not being uptight. I did not know if it was sexual harassment or what. This is just one of many things this manager does that is inappropriate. Thanks for the replies and clarity!

Who high fives with their knee?

I didn’t get that part either.

Sexual harrassment covers two branches, Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment and Creating a Hostile Working Environment. The smack falls under “hostile environment,” as there is no “something for something exchange.”

Going to H/R even with a justified complaint usually is more trouble than it’s worth as H/R dept exist for the company not the employee and I know I’ve worked in H/R and it always fell back to me to give the sexual harassment training.

If a person feels uncomfortable confronting his/her boss they should talk to H/R but I also agree telling the guy to knock it off first would be better all around.

Typical HR response. Shift the responsibility on the person bringing them the problem instead of having an answer for them they could actually use. If it bothers you… really? What if my boss was whipping his dick out and wagging it in front of me? Should I speak to him first if it bothers me? HR is beyond worthless to employees.

HR is there for the company, not the employee, so avoid HR if at all possible.

If he is comfortable bringing this up to his boss in private, he should do so, and ask him to stop. Don’t make it a big deal, and don’t threaten to go to HR. That puts everyone on the defensive. HR does not want or like problems in the company. They will begin to look for ways to eliminate the problem. Sometimes it is easier to get rid of the complainer, so make sure he’s done his due diligence before running to HR.

This is strange behavior. Does he do it to other men in the office? Does he do it where other people can see him doing it? Has he asked other men in the office if he’s done it to them? It might just be this guy’s “way”. Doesn’t make it right, but he might not be doing it to upset you.

Avoid HR unless there is no other recourse.

What about using the anonymous phone line set up to report HR issues to report this?


The next time it happens, your co-worker needs to turn to the manager, make eye contact and sternly state, “do not ever do that to me again.”

The manager is playing by the wrong guy code for the environment. Where I am at, this is not a big deal. Heck, you might get cup checked by your buddies. However, in a professional work environment, I would shut that manager down the first time he did it.

Do not involve HR for all of the reasons already mentioned. It is the very last option.

Read it like: Less weird but still questionable are (knees) and (hands- aside from shakes and high fives).

If the guy is your work partner, why should you take up for him? I’d stay the hell out of if unless the guy being smacked worked for me. The guy being smacked has to let the guy doing the smacking know that he doesn’t like it. You didn’t say why the butt smacker smacks butts; it it is like an “attaboy” smack, that’s one thing. If it’s like a “nice ass” smack, that’s another thing altogether. Either way, if the recipient of the smack doesn’t like it or isn’t willing to just put up with it, it’s his job to complain about it. Also, he could respond by smacking the guy back. If the guy complains about that, ask why it’s acceptable for him to do it but unacceptable to have it done to him.

In my opinion he’s not being sexually harassed, but socially dominated. In some situations this is harmless (such as sports being played between peers, where no domination is inherent or permanent) and in most other situations entirely wrong.

Your friend could use HR as a sledge to beat his manager over the head with, but it’s too heavy a move, and in doing so he’d make sure that the two could never work together again. Your friend should affirm his own social position by bringing the subject up with his manager and telling him to cut it out.